The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 26

20 12 2008

Perhaps the biggest adjustment that my niece and I had was over safety issues for her baby daughter, April.  My two dogs were not used to children.  Lucy was a chow mix and had no tolerance for children.  Sugar was a beagle mix and she would growl at April.  I wasn’t about to get rid of my dogs that had been a part of our lives since l990.  April had a playpen–so I insisted that April be put in the play pen unless Jean was free to watch her around the dogs.  This idea did not go over well with Jean.  She told me that April was not used to being in a playpen.  I realized that I had made a big mistake in not talking over the dog issue before Jean even bought a ticket to come to our home.  It was an issue that tried my patience sorely. 

I had to be at work at 7:30 a.m. each morning.  There was no one in the house to check to see if Jean was following my rule about the playpen.  I prayed about their safety each morning as I left our home.  On weekends, I did have the opportunity to make sure that the playpen rule was followed.   Jean was fond of putting April in her high chair while she cooked.  I was not happy about that at all because I knew the playpen could be moved around our home.

The friction just never ended in my relationship with Jean.  We had different views about cooking.  Jean liked to cook and her skills of cooking were marvelous. However, she didn’t like to clean up after herself instantly.  I had the view that when one cooked–clean up was an instant thing.  I didn’t like pots and pans in my sink.  I didn’t like anykind of mess in my kitchen.  We also differed greatly in our choices of meals to be cooked.  I really didn’t like Jean using my portable dishwasher.  It had a flaw of not releasing the final rinse water.  I had to turn the dishwasher off and fidget with it to be able to release the water.  She misunderstood me and thought I was just being a snob.  I just knew that I was the only one who knew how to deal with the dishwasher problem.

Meanwhile, the stress level was rising with the lady that I worked for.  She had just moved into a retirement village.  It was a very different culture for Mrs. T.  This retirement village was made up of well to do people who liked to socialize.  Many of the families had been social with each other long before they moved into the village.  Mrs. T , although well to do, had been a blue collar worker all of her life.  Her entrance into this retirement village was mainly because her wealthy daughter paid for this retirement home.  Mrs. T’s home was on the market and that money would be given to her daughter.  However, Mrs. T got to move right away even before her home sold.  Mrs. T had been  friends with a group of women who had had jobs like she had had.  They had a similar understand ing with each other.  In fact, one of my jobs was to take Mrs. T to eat breakfast at a certain restaurant each Friday morning with these lady friends. She was completely out of her culture in the retirement village.  Each day over our cup of coffee and snack she would tell me that she just couldn’t make friends at the village.  My heart ached for her.

The village offered bus trips to do fun things.  They also had a potluck the first of each month.  Mrs. T would have nothing to do with any of those events.  And her dog was another problem.  Even though she was allowed to have her dog–everyone around was afraid of Bonnie.  I walked Bonnie around the village but I had to keep a close guard over her because she would try to lunge at others trying to walk along the same pathway.  There was plenty of gossip about Mrs. T’s dog.  And one time when I was not there–Mrs. T attempted to take her dog out.  Bonnie bit the hand of someone and Mrs. T had to pay for the doctor’s visit.  The directors of the village insisted that Bonnie could no longer go for walks without having a harness around her face.  We looked all over town for a harness for Bonnie.  It seemed useless.  We were having no luck.  Finally, we found something but it was almost impossible to put it on Bonnie.  It was like a wrestling match and I was the one chosen to do the wrestling.  Finally, Mrs. T got permission for me to walk the dog without the harness.  However, she never attempted to take the dog out ever again.

I felt sorry for Bonnie because she had been used to having her backyard to play in.  Now she was limited to walks only when I was there.  Mrs. T developed a system of putting down plastic and throw rugs for Bonnie to use the bathroom.  She was constantly washing these throw rugs.  However, that was the way it was going to be.  I tried never to give my opinion because it only caused Mrs. T to become irritated with me.  I did like Mrs. T and all in all–it was a good job for me.  It just wasn’t fun to go home and find out what Jean and April had been doing all morning.

I had welcomed Jean and April with open arms but I found that I was not a patient person at all.  I was disappointed in myself.  Why couldn’t I just overlook things?  Well, there were safety issues for one –that always haunted me.  Then there were issues with laundry.  Jean washed a great deal for just two people.  My water bill sored to almost a $100.00 one month.  Then if we had forgotten something at the store she would expect us to go get it—immediately.

To be fair to Jean–we did had some great talks and we laughed a great deal together.  The tension was mounting between taking care of Mrs. T and having Jean and April in our home.  I was failing as a person.  I didn’t like the horrible character traits that I was seeing in myself.  And it wasn’t going to get much better.


The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 25

30 09 2008

Actually I started my job working for Mrs. T about 10 days before the wedding.  Our street was full of widows and many of them were friends with each other.  One of the widows called  me and told me that Mrs. T was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration and was no longer able to drive.  She asked me if I would be interested in doing some driving and other chores for Mrs. T.  I wasn’t sure that taking care of an elderly person was something I wanted to do but I went down and talked with Mrs. T.  Her Boston Terrier would not stop jumping up on me.  Mrs. T told me that if I wanted the job–I had to be able to handle her dog.  That dog was brutal to me that day.  Oh, not in a way that would really harm me but I obtained a few scratches from Bonnie.  Perhaps I should have said no to this little job but I just didn’t have the heart to abandon an 84 year old woman who had trouble seeing. 

Mrs. T had a good retirement from working for the state. Plus, she had a daughter that was very well to do.  This was Mrs. T’s only child.  Deidra was very protective of her mother .  She called her mother every day and visited a month at a time each season of the year.  When I began my job–it was almost time for Deidra to come for a visit.  I worked for Mrs. T about 3 weeks before Deidra arrived for a visit.  It was long enough to gain a sense of trust between us.  I had to be at Mrs. T’s home at 7:30 a.m.  My first duty was to clean up all of Bonnie’s mess on the back porch.  Each evening, Mrs. T placed newspaper on the floor of her little back porch.  I was to clean up all of the mess and mop the floor.  Then I took Bonnie for a walk.  When I got back, Mrs. T liked to go shopping or just get something to eat at a fast food place.

When Deidra came for her visit–I had that time off.  She interviewd me and actually Deidra became my boss.  She decided that she didn’t want her mother to worry about paying for help.  Deidra and I struck up a good friendship.  I trusted her and she trusted me.  After years of taking care of my children–caretaking was just a part of who I was as a person.  I fell right in with my duties.  Deidra also wanted me to write out all of Mrs. T’s bills.  Then Mrs. T signed the checks.   So I was a check writer, chauffeur, dog handler and all around girl Friday.  I worked about 25 hours a week.  Plus, I still substituted for the paper routes.  Looking back–I just can’t imagine how I handled all of my duties.

Right as school started in August –you, Vera, had another accident.  We had a coffee table in the living room with a glass top.  You placed your weight on it and fell through.  The glass tore one of your legs up in a bad way.  I started screaming as I saw all the blood flowing.  I desparately looked for old towels to wrap your leg up in.  We got you to the emergency room as fast as possible.  You had to have 11 stiches and they placed your leg in an immobilizer.  You had to wear that for 10 days.  When it was taken off and the stiches were taken out–your leg was very stiff.  It took another week for you to be able to walk without being gripped with extreme pain.  I’ve never had another glass top coffee table.  They are just to dangerous.

Inbetween taking care of Mrs. T and substituting for paper routes–life continued to be very full.  It was Maria’s senior year.  She was on the year book staff and spent a great deal of time on that project.  One of her jobs was to have video footage of all important events.  Maria also continued to be active with her speech and debate team.  You, Vera, were extremly busy with the Beta Club and National Honor Society.  You continued to win all kinds of awards working with the academic team and science Olympia.  There was never a dull moment in our home.

And I keep forgetting to mention how much all of us loved and enjoyed our dogs, Sugar and Lucy.  Your Dad and I tried to walk them each day before we ate supper.  We had a well known path of walking the dogs and to this day I still get people telling me that they see us walking our dogs.  We also still had our very first cat, Tinker.  She was very peculiar with her eating habits.  She only wanted a certain brand of tuna and sauce made especially for cats.  She loved the outdoors and would only come in to be fed.  We tried to make her an inside cat but it was no use.  I knew that she would die before her time because there were just too many people on our street that didn’t like cats.  We had already lost Tinker’s daughter to poison.  We also had Max who was equally loved the outdoors.  He, too,  had he own peculiar ways.  He would climb up in the front yard maple tree that was close to the porch.  He would then appear to fly to the roof and sit at the window of Maria’s room until she let him in.  Our lives were full and rich.  There was never any time in our lives to be bored.

Spring came with a new adventure.  My brother, David’s daughter, who lived in Louisville called and told me all of her troubles as a single mom.  Jean seemed to be well doted over by her mother, aunts and her maternal grandmother.  Jean’s mom was mentally ill but if she stayed on her medication–she functioned well.  The problem was that Jean’s mom didn’t like to stay on her medication.  For some reason, Jean, was always the target of her mom’s mental problems.  I told Jean that she could come live with us.  So in April of l996 Jean and her 14 month old daughter, April–came to live with us.  Jean took the Greyhound bus.  Later, her grandmother, mother and aunts brought the bulk of her things to our home.  We enjoyed a Sunday afternoon visiting with them.  Looking back, I would have to say that I must have been addicted to crisis.   I hate to admit that about myself for my life was full enough.  Why did I have to keep stirring the pot?

The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 24

8 09 2008

Sandy started her freshman year at our community college.  I was excited when Sandy and Rob decided to paint our living room over Labor day weekend.  I paid for the paint but I let Sandy pick the color she wanted.  She chose a dark hunter green.  I just let them paint away.  It was so nice not to have to do the work myself.  I went to Wal-Mart to pick out some new curtains that would match the dark green paint.  Later on in September, I painted our master bedroom and bought  a new bedspread and curtains.  There was just such a spirit of new adventures in our home– that were actually fun.

Ben and Pam came by often.  Pam’s birthday was on Halloween.  I remember giving her a 5 quart crockpot for her birthday.  Sandy was doing well in college.  She knew that she loved math and accounting and excelled in those subjects.  Little did she know that one day her math teacher’s wife– who was a certified public accountant –would be her boss. 

Vera, you continued to love science.  I just couldn’t believe the joy you had in disecting a rat.  You continued to talk about wanting to be a veterinarian.  Maria ‘s friendships formed around those that were on her speech and debate team.  She especially enjoyed her friend Ross.  They did everything together but they were not sweethearts.  They were like a brother and sister.  It was her junior year in high school and she even went to the prom with Ross. 

Around Christmas time we began talking about getting a word processor.  We felt it would be sufficient for the growing needs of our family.  Sandy was not happy about our getting the word processor and it turned out to be a waste of our money.  She pouted that we gave it to you children as one of the family Christmas presents. 

On the happy side, Phillip had moved back in with his wife Teresa.  Teresa was still working on her master’s degree to become a school psychologist while living in North Carolina. They came to visit Teresa’s parents during the Christmas season and came by the house.  I remember Phillip making himself quite at home as he watched a murder mystery in our newly painted living room.  He loved the hunter green.color we had chosen for the walls. However, he would not talk about his life in a personal way.  Teresa and the boys were still involved with the group that I believed was a cult.  I knew Phillip was under a great deal of pressure to conform to their ways.  Yet, I know he didn’t bend to all of their demands. Therefore, although he lived in the same home as Teresa –they were more like room mates.  Teresa was cordial but kept her boundaries very tight.  And I kept thinking that her studies in psychology should be helping her to leave this religious group.

With the Christmas season over–Ben and Pam began talking about getting married right away.  They didn’t let us know the date of their wedding. They just walked in  our home one afternoon in late January announcing that they were married at the courthouse.  Her parents were at the wedding but we were not invited.  Your dad and I were devastated but we tried not to show it.  Pam began withdrawing from our family shortly after her marriage to Ben.  Wheras she used to seem to love to visit with us–now she only came over if we were having a family function.

Although I couldn’t emotionally connect with Ben and Pam– I coped because there was still a great deal of excitement over Sandy having set her wedding date for July 15, 1995.  We began looking at wedding dresses and thinking about all of the little details of planning a church wedding.  Sandy also convinced us to buy a real computer and printer.  It was an expensive investmnt in l995.  I think the computer cost $2,000.00 and the printer cost $500.00.  We didn’t have that kind of money in savings so we used our credit card.  We never had credit cards the first 15 years of our marriage.  That was a big mistake buying something that we had not saved our money for.  Yet, it did seem that  the computer was a necessity for our high school and college girls. 

We were fast becoming the all American family who lived by borrowing money.  Our home had reached the point where it needed some necessary improvements.  In early spring we decided to have all of our windows replaced.  Then we decided to have the exterior of our home painted.  It took some time to get a second mortgage.  Finally, in late May our big house remodeling project began.  We got our loan to replace all of our windows, have our two porches and window trimmings sided—-and to have the exterior of our home painted.  My head was spinning with all the debt we were accumulating.  Moreover, we still had a wedding to finance.

Jim was working six days a week on a regular cycle.  I can remember taking all of that over time to help with financing Sandy’s wedding. Even so–we still ended up putting a great deal of the expense on our credit card.  Rob lost his factory job and so we gave him the job of painting our home.  His uncle was a professional home painter and told Rob the kind of primer and paint that would last a long time.  He also gave Rob many tips on how to paint.  Rob started blasting the old paint off our home on Memorial day.  He finished painting our home a couple of weeks before their wedding.  Our home did look a great deal better .  The work did need to be done.  However, we were over extending ourselves with debt.

Sandy and Rob’s wedding was beautiful. Even today–many years later– I still enjoy looking at their beautiful wedding pictures on our living room wall.  Sandy was a raving beauty.  Vera, you and Maria were also very lovely. I was only 43 years old and two of my children were already married.  Sandy was still only 18 years old.  She wouldn’t turn 19 until September.  Thankfully, Rob had found a job working with a heating and cooling company.  They enjoyed a short honeymoon.  Sandy had to get back to work and plan for her second year at the communtiy college.

It was hard to believe that Maria was going to be a senior in high school.  Vera, I just couldn’t believe you would be a junior. And what about dear mom? I was beginning a new adventure of taking care of an elderly lady.  With all of the debt that we were accumulating–I had to help provide some of the money to take care of our family.  I didn’t want to work as a substitute teacher.  I thought it would be a nice change to help an elderly person.  Little did I know that I would be taking care of her dog almost as much as I would be taking care of her. 

Thus, the summer of 1995 was ending.  Sandy was back at work and starting her sophmore year in college.  You , Vera, and Maria were back in  high school.  Ben and Pam were busy with their own lives and I was about to begin a five year stint of taking care of an elderly lady and her dog.

The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 23

27 08 2008

I continued in my belief that one day Phillip would return home.  Yet, I knew that he had to experience everything that he was living.  I didn’t want him to have a short cut to his mental or spiritual health.  The door to communicating with Phillip was very slim.  He did let us know when he moved to the half way house.  Phillip also let us know when he got a part time job while living at the half way house.  However, Phillip just wasn’t emotionally strong enough to chat for long or to give many details.  I, especially had to learn to be content that he was alive and being taken care of.  I continued to pray for him daily .  Moreover, I just had to push on with my very full life of dealing with four teenagers.

As a freshman in high school,Vera, you excelled in both language arts and math and science.  You  began talking about studying to become a veterinarian.  That became your focus which stayed with you throughout high school.  You planned your entire academic schedule around your desires to become a doctor.  Your were very active and successful as a member of the academic team and the science olympia team.  Often you traveled with these teams either after school or on the weekends for competitions. 

Meanwhile, Maria was often gone with speech team competitions.  You both still had afternoon paper routes so I ended up substituting for both of you a great deal.  I didn’t mind doing that because I wanted each of you to have spending money for high school.  Although your dad was making more money–we still were not able to just pass around extra spending money .  Thus, that was my contribution to both of you girls– so that you could be a part of your teams and  not lose your paper routes.

Sandy was enjoying getting out of high school at lunch time.  Rob, who worked for the newspaper would come over to our home each day.  They would eat lunch together and watch a soap opera. Then Sandy would report to the newspaper for her job as assistant circulation secretary.  Rob would also get back to his job at the newspaper.  They both would get off work around 6:30 p.m.  They were together most every evening.  Sandy never neglected her homework.  I don’t know how she squeezed that obligation in but she continued to make good grades. 

Sandy was concerned that Rob just needed one credit left to graduate from high school.  She told Rob that she would never marry him if he didn’t get his high school education.  Thus, he began in an adult program that fall and earned his last credit.  In December, we all went to a special ceremony at the school board for many like Rob who were just finishing up small obligations to reach their graduation goals.   He was handed his diploma from the superintendent of our school system.  We were all extremely proud of Rob.

The winter of 1994 was the harshest winter that I can ever remember in our years of living in Kentucky.  A major ice storm hit our county and the surrounding counties.  Sandy had to be at work each Saturday morning at the newspaper and I begged her to let dad drive.  She was very headstrong and demanded her independence.  She did wreck.  The traffic lights were messed up and everyone had a green light.  She was driving a huge 1973 Buick which protected her.  The front end was badly damaged. However, we were still able to drive the car.  That car was made out of pure iron.  I would hate to see what could have happened with today’s light weight cars. 

That ice storm in February left many without power in the county for two entire weeks.  The trees were so loaded down with ice that a constant snapping became a common sound.  We had our power restored in 24 hours. Many people had to move to shelters.  The clean up was horrendous.  It took the city and county months to clear up all the debris.  We still had our tree limbs on the street in early spring before the city finally picked them. 

During the ice storm, I fell down our basement stairs and broke my “pinky” on my left hand.  I used my hand and arm to hug the basement wall on the stairwell to keep from breaking my leg.  It was such a serious break that I had to have major surgery.  I had a pin put in my tiny finger.  It has taken years to get my flexability back.  Thankfully, that finger is mainly a support in playing the piano.  However, playing the piano has been the best therapy in getting my flexability back.

Ben was living his own script.  After having been sent away to a group home in l992–he made it plain that he would be leaving our home when he was 18 years old.  Ben never gave us any more difficulty .  He was very responsible at school and at work.  He was working at Wal-Mart after school.  He met an older girl who had already been married and divorced.  After the ice storm cleared up–he moved in with this girl.  She had her own apartment.  Although we didn’t agree with his decision–we knew to keep our mouths shut.  We were nice to Pam and never gave her any grief.  Actually, she did more to influence Ben to finish his senior year than we ever could have.  We simply had mo more influence in Ben’s life—period.

Spring finally arrived.  Ben and Sandy were excited about graduating from high school.  Ben had no desire to attend college.  He loved working with his hands.  In fact , one of the jobs that he did at Wal Mart was to assemble all of the bikes, lawn mowers, etc.  He had also done some apprentice work with a home builder.  It was his goal to learn everything he could about carpentry and building homes.  I knew that he would be successful.  Sandy wanted to continue her job at the newspaper so she applied to be a student at our community college.

It was May!  Ben and Sandy graduated from high school.  Jim’s brother and his family traveled from Iowa to be a part of the celebration.  After the graduation ceremony, Rob asked Jim if he could ask Sandy to marry him.  Again, we felt that we would never win by denying that request.  Sandy would be a very young bride even if they waited a year.  Sandy happily excepted her engagement ring.  How had the years passed by so quickly?  How could we be the parents of a young woman who had just become engaged?  Our desire for Sandy was that she would earn  a college degree. 

Ben also announced that he was engaged to Pam.  We stood in the shadows of the lives of our young adult children.  The bend in our lives was again turning…….

The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 22

31 07 2008

Words can not describe the relief our family felt because of Jim’s better job.  We had  prayed for Jim to find a better job for eleven years.  He had tried every avenue he knew.  Finally, our prayers were answered. It was a fun summer yet also a bitter sweet summer. I took Sandy shopping for new clothing for her job at the newspaper.  It wasn’t long before Sandy started dating Rob.  Rob worked at the newspaper and so did his step father.  Rob’s grandmother lived across the street from us.  Likewise, his real dad lived down the street from us.  Rob was six years older than Sandy.  We certainly had our concerns but because we knew the family–we didn’t make any waves about Sandy dating Rob. Now Rob had a red sport car.  And it wasn’t long until Sandy began driving that red sports car.  Rob would let her drive his car home for her lunch break. 

Our friend, Bill, from England came to stay a whole month.  Maria painted a room in the basement for herself so that Bill could have her room. Once again, Bill, gave me plenty of grocery money.  We had some really festive times in which my brother , Phillip, joined in. 

Phillip was way too quiet that summer.  I knew he was contemplating his grief over his estranged family.  Phillip had tried every way he knew how to reconcile with Teresa.  However, Teresa and the boys were caught in the mindset of the religious group they were involved with.  That group was basically run by one family.  And the wife of that family was a bully such as none I had ever encountered.  Our family had been involved with that group until l989.  I finally made the decision that I would have nothing more to do with that group.  It took Jim a few more months before he left.  However, Phillip cut me off.  He would not have anything more to do with our family.  Furthermore, my dad had written to me–cutting himself off from our family.  He told me that he didn’t like to hear about our sagas. 

In l991, Phillip left the group.  His wife and boys didn’t.  Phillip began talking to our family again.  We drew very close to him in his grieving.  So now in the summer of 1993, Teresa told Phillip that she had been accepted into graduate school in Boone, North Carolina.  This tore at Phillip.  Moreover, he wouldn’t talk about his grief.  

We needed Bill’s sense of humor to help us with our grief over Phillip.  Our last Friday evening with Bill–we all went to eat supper at Shoneys.  After that supper, we didn’t  hear from Phillip.  He didn’t answer his phone.  So after a couple of days, Jim and I went over to his apartment.  I had a key to his apartment and when he didn’t answer the door–we just unlocked the door and went in.  It appeared that he had stayed up reading religious material from this cultic group for there were books and magazines all over the floor.  Later we learned that he left in the middle of the night for North Carolina.  He never let his employer know that he was leaving.  He didn’t even let his brother-in-law who owned the apartment house know he was leaving.

Throughout the month of August, we had no clue to what was going in in Phillips life.  Thankfully, we had other distractions.  Jim’s siter and her family came for a visit from Iowa.  I remember having a long talk with them about Phillip.  They joined with us in prayer for Phillip.  Their visit came as our children were starting school.  Ben and Sandy were finally seniors in high school.  Maria was a sophmore and Vera was a freshman.  Sandy enjoyed the fact that she got to come home at noon for an hour before she left for her co-op job at the newspaper.

We had other griefs the month of August.  Julie, one of our cats was poisoned.  Sandy had seen her at midnight when she came home from her date with Rob.  We suspected one of our neighbors poisoned her as her body was laying next to a cat food can.  Then we found out that Julie’s mom, Tinker, had breast cancer.  I had never heard of breast cancer in a cat.  Tinker had surgery and recovered physically but we knew she missed her daughter, Julie.  They had an incredible bond.

Finally, around Labor day– we learned that Phillip had tried to renew his ties with the religious group.  They made it impossible for him.  He was subject to physical and mental abuse from this group.  I was able to find out Teresa’s phone number and called her.  She told me that Phillip had contemplated suicide by taking too many sleeping pills.  However, after he had taken them–he called 911.  His stomach was pumped and he was placed in a mental hospital for five weeks.  I was able to talk with him a few times while he was a patient.  He wouldn’t talk about his experience.  He only told us that he enjoyed playing cards with the other patients and that soon he would be placed in a half way home.

Shortly after we learned about what had happened to Phillip–I received a letter from my dad.  We had not communicated in any way for four years.  Now he was full of apologies for having cut me off.  I knew that Dad must have hit some bad times of his own.  I learned that his health was bad and that the IRS was dogging his every step.  No one wants to be alone in such times.  My child hood Bible lessons about forgiveness kicked in.  I accepted dad back into my life.  I realized that I would not have him around for may more years.

So life was sweet and bitter the summer of l993.  Financial troubles no longer overwhelmed us but the deeper more thorny issues of interpersonal relationships sure did.  Money could never solve the grief my brother was living with.  Although I wasn’t active in a church–I continued to sit on my basement stairs and pray for all of the needs of our family.  One day, Phillip would return to us……I just knew it.

The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 21

27 06 2008

In early September of l992, Bill arrived at our home.  Your dad and Phillip had gone to the Nashville airport to pick Bill up.  He was  from London, England.  Bill wasn’t exactly a policeman–but he had  a job related to police work.  He was in his mid thirties and divorced.  He had been to America to visit Phillip and Teresa once before.   He was an  easy going sort of guy who brought some much needed laughter to our family.  After experiencing a summer of double tragedy–the brightness of Bill’s personality was a God send.

Bill had only been to America one time.  He didn’t have much experience with American stores.  Thus, he loved to visit our mall and to go grocery shopping with me.  He gave me the money to buy all of our food during his two week stay.  Bill liked helping me pick out the groceries.  He also loved frozen yogurt and ice cream.  We rarely ate a meal without some time of frozen dessert.  Phillip didn’t abandan me with the hosting.  He came over every day to visit with Bill. 

Sandy had her 16th birthday while Bill was staying with us.  She was determined to pass her driver’s permit road test the first time–and she did.  It wasn’t long until Sandy got a job at Arby’s.  She enjoyed working at Arby’s a great deal.  She worked the drive thru most of the time.  This gave Sandy some much needed spending money.  There is a verse in the book of Proverbs that says that laughter and a merry heart are good for the soul.  Our family was laughing once again.  We were healing from so many wounds. 

The after shocks of the summer stayed with me for many years.  I could laugh and enjoy my family.  However, I could no longer express my feelings with journaling.  I had kept a journal since Ben and Sandy started Kindergarten.  I was frozen inside.  I just couldn’t put pen to paper.  My bounderies for living were shrinking, too.  I wasn’t comfortable leaving our town.  I felt safe going to the grocery store, the mall, the schools, the pharmacy and our doctor.  However, I wouldn’t leave the city limits.  It was a type of agoraphobia.  I couldn’t shake it.  Our family had spent years dealing with psychologists.  I had no interest in starting up anymore visits to the mental health center.  I suffered deeply. 

Although your dad and I were no longer hostile with each other–there was still a gap that just couldn’t be filled.  Jim had made some attempts to be in church for several years.  Now, he joined me in staying home each Sunday.  We couldn’t reach each other. We never prayed together.  We met each other where we could and sometimes had a great deal of fun.  Mostly, we were miles apart in our thinking about everything in life.

You, Vera, had a very successful year as an eighth grader.  You were chosen to take high school Algebra in the eighth grade.  You started talking about your dreams of becoming a veterinarian. We all loved animals.  The antics of Lucy and Sugar, our dogs, kept us rolling.  I still enjoyed walking them both for long, long walks.  It was great therapy.  You, in particular, took more interest in science and math because of your dream of becoming a veterinarian.Meanwhile, another dream was birthing that would be for the well being of our family.

In April of l993–there was finally hope that Jim would be able to get a better paying job.  For eleven years–your dad had worked in a little print shop.  He never got any raises.  We had no health insurance.  The only way we made it financially through your accident was the fact that the newspaper that you delivered  newspapers for—had accidentl health insurance for their newspaper carriers.  It was a twenty four hour accidental policy.  And it paid for about 90 percent of your medical treatment.  Therefore, we were so excited when one of our neighbors told your Dad that there was an opening at his factory. At last, we would have family medical insurance.

Jim applied for the job and passed the first interview.  He then had to take some math and English tests.  He passed those, too.  The next step was a medical exam.  Then a few days later, he land the job. Sandy also started a new job as the assistant circulation secretary at our local newspaper.  She got this job through her high school business co-op program.

You, Vera, had another accident the day your Dad and Sandy started their new jobs.  You got bit by a chow at one of the homes you were collecting money for the newspaper.  It was a deep wound and I had to take you to the emergency room.  The chow was ordered to be confined to the inside of the owner’s home for two weeks.  I had to dress your leg three times a day and you had to take powerful antibiotics.   Nevertheless, we were a happy family.  Life was taking a brighter turn for us.  Most of all, Ben never got in trouble with us or the anyone else the rest of his life.  Writing this in the year 2001–I can honestly say that is the truth. 


The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 20

18 06 2008

In my heart–I knew I must forsake all thoughts of ruining my marriage.  Jim did what he thought he needed to do at the time.  Although I still don’t think it was the best solution for dealing with Ben’s anger problems–I had seen good come out of bad situations in our family so often–that I finally just took a deep breath and went on with life.  I didn’t speak bitter things to Jim.  We had to work together to get our family healed.  And that healing begain with our first visit to Henderson, Kentucky to see Ben.

It was Memorial Day weekend.  Phillip wanted to visit with Ben, too.  Thus, he drove us in his 1978 Oldsmobile.  Phillip had his own set of problems to deal with as he was separated from his wife and family.  He went from being a traveling minister who made good money– to living in a small apartment and adjusting to life as a factory worker.  At any rate–it was a beautiful weekend and we were excited to be able to spend some time with Ben.

I baked chocolate chip cookies that Memorial day morning.  I packed up a nice box of them for Ben.  Once again, Sandy and Maria were in charge of the household.  It was up to them to take care of you, Vera.  Once we arrived in Hendersonville at the group home–we were allowed to take Ben out for several hours.  We took Ben to a park on the Ohio River.  After we enjoyed that park for awhile–we found another park right in the city.  There were Memorial Day festivities taking place.  There were venders cooking up all kinds of meat.  I remember that Ben, Dad and Phillip enjoyed huge pork chop sandwiches.  Ben told us about his job working in a hospital.  All the boys were cleaning smoke filled walls at the local hospital.  The hospital was going to become a smoke free environment.  Ben was working 40 hours a week and earning money.  Although he would have preferred not to have been ordered out of his home–he was making the best of the situation.  He liked the air conditioning in the group home.  At the time, our home only had one large unit for the downstairs.  Ben always burned up in the summertime with no air conditioning in the upstairs of our home.  He also enjoyed having a large variety of food.  Our family was very limited on what we could spend on groceries.  So already God was working in the midst of a double tragedy.  All of our attitudes of antagonism were healing.

It was time for some follow up treatment for you, Vera.  Driving to Indiana was out of the question. We decided to do our follow up work through Trover Clinic based in Madisonville, Kentucky.  They had a clinic in our town.  Doctors would come from Madisonville to treat patients.  We were able to see an Orthopedic doctor and a Neurosurgeon.  You were at Trover Clinic every two weeks.  It was grueling getting you in and out of the car.  Dealing with that wheel chair was tough.  Often we had to wait a long time to see a doctor.  Likewise, soon you wanted to make trips to WalMart and the mall.  The wheelchair business always exhausted us both.  I gained a great deal of empathy for the handicapped.  I knew eventually you would walk again.  However, there are so many people who don’t have that hope.  I knew in my heart that I would always feel more compassion for those who had no hope of ever walking again. 

Finally in August we drove to the main hospital in Madisonville to get your casts removed.  The doctor cut them off and told you to walk.  He didn’t prescribe any physical therapy.  You screamed in anguish when you tried to take your first steps.  For several days you were in terrible pain. You literally had to learn to walk again.  It took a good two weeks for you to walk without being in  pain.

Also in August, we went back to court to ask If Ben could come home.  The judge was pleased with everyone’s progress.  The hostility was gone in our marriage.  The judge told Ben that he could come back home.  The catch was that Ben had to meet with a social worker each week.  I didn’t like that part of the judge’s order. I wanted our family to be completely free from the court system. 

Again, life just marched on. We all fell in place and just did the best we could to continue to heal as a family.  By the end of August- you were back in school and delivering your own paper route.  Phillip still came each afternoon and helped to roll the newspapers.  Ben got a job at a grocery store after school.  Sandy was back to running with her cross country team in high school.  She was also looking forward to getting her driver’s permit.  She would be 16 in September. 

Phillip continued to spend a great deal of time with us on the weekends.  We still made our huge pots of soup and the card games continued.  His wife was enrolled as a student at Austin Peay State University.  She had one year left to finish her undergraduate degree.  Phillip’s boys were also in high school.  His oldest was a senior.  Phillip went through terrible bouts of depression because of the separation of his family.  They were not open to visiting with Phillip.  The boys wanted nothing to do with their dad.  Neither did they want anything to do with any of you children.  It was sad that his boys would not even speak to Ben and Sandy at the high school. 

Phillip did have one little bit of joy.  A little black kitten was given to him.  He named the kitten Blackie.  We all enjoyed visiting with Blackie at Phillip’s apartment.  Then after Labor Day weekend, Phillip informed us that his friend, Bill, was coming for a visit from England.  He didn’t think Bill would be happy at his apartment.  He asked me if Bill could stay at our home for the two week visit.  I was not enthusiastic.  It was the beginning a new adventure.